The Gustavus men's basketball team stood up to the test of its most physically demanding contest of the season on Saturday afternoon in St. Peter, Minn., defeating first place St. Thomas 82-77 in overtime. The Gusties shot a season-high 60.4-percent from the field, as Seth Anderson led the way with 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting.
"It was probably the most physical game I've played in here at Gustavus. The Tommies always bring that element and I thought we responded well," said junior guard Ben Biewen. "Toughness was key tonight. Last time we played them we were getting pushed off the blocks, not coming off our screens well, and tonight we did those little things."
Gustavus moves into a tie for first place in the conference standings alongside St. Thomas, improving to 13-5 overall and 10-3 in the MIAC with the victory. St. Thomas drops to an identical 13-5 overall and 10-3 in the MIAC.
The two teams would go back-and-forth with the score being tied on eight different occasions through the opening 15-minutes of the game. With the score knotted at 26-26, the Gusties were able to go up six points (32-26) after three straight buckets by Tyler Grey, Seth Anderson, and Jim Hill on ensuing possessions with 3:20 remaining in the first half. A pair of free throws with :03 seconds on the clock by St. Thomas' John Nance cut the Gustavus lead to 34-30 at halftime.
Gustavus shot 60-percent from both the floor (15-25) and three-point range (3-5) in the first half. Grey and Anderson led the team in scoring with eight points each, as Biewen scored seven points and had three assists. St. Thomas shot 46.2-percent (12-26) from the floor and was just 1-for-10 from three in the opening 20-minutes. John Nance led all scorers with 10 points after going 3-for-5 from the field and 4-for-5 at the free throw line.
The Gusties used a 7-2 run to start the second half to go up 41-32 with 17:16 on the clock. Paul Blacklock scored five points within the run.
Following a pair of three throws by Anderson that gave Gustavus a 49-42 edge with 13:09 on the clock, St. Thomas used a 9-2 run that tied the game at 41-41 with 11-minutes to play. The Tommies would take the lead two minutes later and would go up five points (63-58) following two free tosses by Noah Kaiser at the 6:28 mark.
Gustavus kept responding in the final five minutes of play. After Nance put his squad up 66-64 on a three-pointer with 3:28 to play, Anderson responded with a three-point play :22 seconds later to put Gustavus up 67-66. Nance once again put the Tommies up by one (68-67) at the 2:18 mark, and once again, Anderson responded with two free throws that gave Gustavus a 69-68 lead with 2:03 left. A free throw by Will DeBerg tied the game at 69-69 with 1:59 on the clock. The basket would be the final point of regulation, as neither team could hit the game-winning shot in the remaining seconds.
Gustavus continued to stay hot from the field, shooting 55.6-percent (10-18) in the second half. Anderson scored 13 points in the frame, while Blacklock added nine points and brought down five rebounds. St. Thomas shot 41.4-percent (12-29) and was led by DeBerg (13 pts.) and Nance (11 pts.).
With a 78-77 advantage with :57 seconds left to play in overtime, a missed free throw by Seth Anderson led to a Paul Blacklock offensive rebound that kept the Gusties in possession with a fresh shot clock. Forced to foul, St. Thomas sent Ben Biewen to the line four times in the final :23 seconds. Biewen went 4-for-4 at the stripe in two trips, securing a five-point win for the Gusties.
"It was a game-saver and it gave us a chance to extend the lead at the line," said Head Coach Mark Hanson about Blacklock's offensive rebound at the end of overtime. "Then he makes a nice block at the end. He is not a guy that will wow you on the stat sheet but he is our best screener and best rebounder, and that showed again tonight."
The Gusties went 4-of-5 from the floor and didn't turn the ball over once in the overtime session. St. Thomas was 3-for-6 in overtime.
Gustavus finished 29-for-48 from the field, 3-for-6 from three point range, and 21-for-31 at the line. A season-high four Gustavus players finished in double-figures. Ben Biewen scored 15 points (4-7) while dishing out a game-high six assists and going a perfect 6-for-6 at the stripe. Tyler Grey finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting that included a 2-for-3 night from beyond the arc, and Jim Hill rounded out the group with 11 points (4-8), adding three boards and two assists.
"People look at our statistics and they think we are all about Seth Anderson. Clearly, Seth has had a wonderful year, but we have a bunch of guys capable of scoring and for them to get that feeling in a game like this will be big down the stretch," commented coach Hanson on Gustavus' balanced scoring attack.
Paul Blacklock and Adam Michel led the way in rebounding, as Blacklock registered a game-high seven boards while Michel brought down six. Gustavus held the rebounding edge 32-to-28 in the game.
St. Thomas finished 27-for-61 from the field, 7-for-21 from behind the arc, and 16-for-22 at the line. John Nance and Will DeBerg led the Tommies with 21 and 20 points, respectively.
"It feels good to win a game like that," concluded Hanson. "It's a physical game and one of our issues in our first meeting with St. Thomas was that they took it to us physically. One of our goals was to make sure they didn't take advantage of us in that way. As a whole I thought we got some tough rebounds and played a very good game against a very tough team."
The Gustavus men's basketball team will be back on the court Monday, Jan. 30th when it travels to Minneapolis to take on Augsburg at 7:30 p.m.